$10 million is granted to relocate Fair, lobbying continues

Image courtesy of FIU External Relations.

Rebeca Piccardo/News Director

For years the University has lobbied to relocate the Miami-Dade County Youth Fair and acquire the 86 acres of adjacent county-owned land for expansion.

Meetings involving the county, University and the Fair resulted in the analysis of 24 different sites across the county.

The county is completing a viability study of the latest site under consideration—Tropical Park.

“We feel that  is the appropriate site and that is the feasible site for us to move the fair there,” said senior vice president of External Relations, Sandra Gonzalez-Levy, at the Board of Trustees committee meeting on June 3.

The Fair has a 99-year lease with the county, through 2040.​

The University has gained more confidence recently when the Florida Legislation granted $10 million for the University’s Strategic Land Acquisition initiative.

“What that has done to us is the fact that it has told the commissioners and the county how serious we are and also how the state is serious about supporting us,” Gonzalez-Levy said. “It has actually placed us on track in order for the us to get the fair.”

However, county voters may think differently. A recent poll conducted by Bendixen & Amandi International for the Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald shows that the voters don’t support FIU’s plan to move the fair.

The poll, which surveyed 400 Miami-Dade registered voters from June 3 to June 5, showed that 50-43 percent of voters oppose the University’s land acquisition initiative.

By contrast, The University External Relations office had reported in April that the Miami Herald had conducted an unscientific poll that showed 77 percent of participants supported the initiative.

This may be a setback to the University because its next move was to lobby the county commission for a county-wide referendum asking the residents of the community to move the fairgrounds, according to Gonzalez-Levy.

“We have a very short window of opportunity for us to actually get approval from the commission for us to acquire the fairgrounds site and to move the fair,” said Gonzalez-Levy at the June 3 meeting. “That window is now.”

At the faculty senate meeting on June 10, Provost Douglas Wartzok addressed questions about the recent poll.


Image courtesy of FIU External Relations.

“I would interpret the total vote as [there’s] still a confusion between [acquiring] specifically the Youth Fair and the county park,” Wartzok said. “A lot of people are opposed to the idea that FIU would be taking away park land.”

FIU’s Strategic Land Acquisition Initiative does not include Tamiami Park, just the area occupied by the Youth Fair.

Wartzok said that the phrasing in the recent poll might have been confusing to some people.

“The way it was phrased was not as clear as ‘specifically the Youth Fair’,” he said.

In the Miami Herald poll, the question asks, “do you support or oppose FIU’s efforts to expand onto County owned land currently leased to the Dade County Youth Fair?”

The relocation estimate, according to SGC-MMC president Alexis Calatayud, is approximately $30-$50 million, which would come out of FIU’s pocket, and the state legislature.

However, the Herald’s poll says that the relocation estimate is between $200 and $250 million, and the cost would be shared between FIU, Miami-Dade County and the State of Florida.

The Modesto A. Maidique Campus is, according to External Relations, “the smallest main campus of the 12 state university in Florida and has the highest classroom utilization rate in the system.”

The 2013-2014 Student Government Association Senate passed a bill to support the the efforts to relocate the fair so the University can expand because the student population has outgrown its facilities.

“The Modesto A. Maidique Campus is meant to support 37,000 students and we are well beyond that with a current population of 54,000,” Calatayud said.

SGC-MMC, according to Calatayud, believes the success of this acquisition is will not only benefit the student population at the University, but the local community as well.

External Relations had previously reported that, with the acquisition of the fairgrounds, there would be a $900 million expansion, with a recurring economic impact of $541 million a year.

“The Miami Herald poll highlights the need for all FIU Fair Ground Expansion advocates to clearly articulate the facts of local economic impact and enhanced student experience that will undoubtedly strengthen voter support of FIU’s continued growth and expansion,” Calatayud said in an e-mail to Student Media.



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